Back when I was a wee lad, in the home country don’t you know (well, Peterborough, Ontario, population at the time around 55K), I ordered books from the Scholastic Book Club. I loved the SBC order forms, and frequently started out with 20 or 30 books I wanted, and had to whittle down my order to only one or two. One time, something I had ordered wasn’t available, and they gave me a credit plus a grab bag of three free books.
One of those free books was part of the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. Eventually growing to 42 books, the series was in its late teens volumes, maybe early 20s, but I think teens.
I fell in love for the first time, partly as the lead investigator was about my age, my size, and smarter than most of his friends. I had read some Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and I would go on to read Sherlock Holmes, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, the Bobbsey Twins, the Happy Hollisters, Louis L’Amour out the wazoo, Travis McGee, dozens of other series. Including my favorite “adult” series, all by Warren Murphy.
But the Three Investigators were my first true love of a series. I tracked the others down. Some through the library, most through the Trent University Book Store and a Coles store in the Peterborough Square. Then I found a bookstore on George Street in Peterborough, a rather small shop with a mix of used and new. And they carried the new 3I series books. Every couple of months, I would find a new one. I didn’t know the business model, but the authors were all on contract. Four or five in total, I think, most of whom got paid relative peanuts to write-for-hire i.e. no royalties, just paid to write in the series.
I have no idea how they licensed Alfred Hitchcock’s name, and eventually they had to deal with his death (the premise was just as Dr. Watson would “introduce” and tell the Holmes’ stories, Alfred Hitchcock would “present” the 3Is’ stories and the intros to the book were supposedly by AH).
Eventually the stories petered out, and it took awhile even to find the last couple. One or two of them I actually had to order, an unheard of idea back in 1980 or so for my pre-teen life.
Later, they tried to release an “update” to the series, with the kids no longer 10-12 but mid-teens. The stories were fine, but the characters were nothing like the earlier versions, more like kids with the same names. Pretenders, not the real McCoy.
It has been said that you can never fall in love again for the first time, but actually I can. I’ve started reading The Secret of Terror Castle, Three Investigators Book 1 to Jacob. I feared it would be too mature for him, but he’s following the story just fine. In retrospect, a ghost story premise is probably not the best of ideas since he thinks there are ghosts in our house and monsters in our basement, but I know the ending and think he’ll be okay with it. Think any episode of Scooby Doo and you can guess the outcome.
Last week and again this week, I’ve been reading to him here and there. We’re about halfway through book one. What I really want to know? If he’ll want to read Book 2 on his own when I’m done, or will want Daddy to keep reading to him. Either way, it’s nice to feel the love in the air.
Of course, I also have Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson on deck at some point too. Not quite ready for Harry Potter, but he’s got time. There are 41 other books to go.